Persevering, adapting and re-creating the Indian literature theatrically instead theoretically.

Over a period of time, Indians have forgotten the importance of Hindustani literature. The west has a strong impact on Indians hampering the Hindustani literature. Students are taught about western literati which aren’t wrong but it is essential to teach about our legendary literati to students. It is important to preserve Indian literature as it speaks the truth about its time and it doesn’t have any manipulation. Literature needs to be taught to generations to make them understand what a particular era was, which is not always very clear through history. Mujeeb Khan is one such person who is working towards the preservation of Hindustani Literature and maintaining its heritage.

He is a theatre activist and writer who has been trying to preserve Hindustani Literature for more than 40 years. He has been performing from the age of 11 and is working ever since then. In a conversation with Mr Mujeeb Khan, he said, “I was 11 when I directed my first play. During school days I won many competitions as a writer and director. At the age of 18, I directed a play with artists double my age. It was appreciated by everyone in the audience.” He has performed at small and big platforms and has always been passionate about theatre. He was corrected by veteran writer and film actor Kader Khan who is also a teacher and stage guru of Mr Mujeeb Khan’s early stage. Shafi Inamdar, Shekhar Purohit and Shaikh Ahmed have also contributed in moulding, Mr Khan.

Mujeeb Khan a post-graduate from Mumbai University, has received acclaim in the form of awards for writing and directing during his school and college days that motivated him to carry on in this field. Currently, Mr Mujeeb Khan and his troupe are on a mission—one that they hope will bring one of India’s most prolific writers into the 21st Century. Mr Khan Directed more than 500 one Act Plays and more than 10 full length plays.

At the age of 18, he wrote a play ‘Laachare Mai’ which was witnessed by a great writer of the era ‘Ismat Chugtai’, where she was a judge and asked Mr Khan his age. She could not believe that it is a work of an 18 years old boy and asked him to meet her regularly for moulding him for his new plays. Mr Mujeeb Khan is a great craftsman, he directs plays in his style which is very unique and he always experiments on stage. At the age of 23, he participated in an all India Drama Competition in Nagpur where his play, “Ishwar Allah Tero Naam” won all the trophies. Many times he has been awarded the best writer and director award in various competitions.

In his early stage life, he directed a play “Spartacus” which was adapted from the novel Spartacus of Howard Fast. It was the first play in then Bombay to gain review and recognition in the Times of India. Another play, “Kabira Khada Bazaar Mein” was based on the life story of Kabir Das. The Times of India’s Evening Newspaper reported saying, “Khan’s Kabira Depicts Equality.” 30-35 shows of each play were done in almost every renowned theatres like NCPA, Prithvi, Pathkar Hall, Birla Matoshree Sabhagraha, etc. Khan received a lot of recognition and appreciation for them.

He shifted to the television industry for a bit. “Then I took a break from theatre and moved towards the television industry as a writer and director. I directed my own show Filmy Duniya, Sitaro Ki Duniya” Khan said. While working in the industry he realised that his creativity was being disturbed and changed, hence he decided to continue doing theatre for the rest of his life. He was a body language expert in a programme on UTV Star’s ‘Batein Ankahi’, as he had the freedom to speak his mind out.

Khan always visioned to function a theatre group alone and hence he left ACT in 2001 and started Ideal Drama and Entertainment Academy (IDEA) in 2002.

In August 2005, Khan started a drama series called ‘Aadab Main Premchand Hoon’ on the occasion of Munshi Premchand’s Birth Anniversary. The plays of Premchand hit the stage to an almost empty theatre. But Khan maintained his faith in the cause, he dramatised and has completed staging 313 out of 315 stories in more than 600 weeks. Mujeeb Khan said, “We maintain the beauty and the subtle nuances of language peculiar to the writer, focusing on correct diction, be it in Urdu or Hindi. We have made it our mission to enact stories of this writer and not let this precious literature get lost in oblivion.”

Khan every year conducts a 10-day drama festival, from 31st July to 9th August as 31st July is Munshi Premchand’s Birth Anniversary. In 2016, he directed and presented 136 plays in just 10 days. Khan said, “You can’t read 136 stories in 10 days but we will show you 136 plays in 10 days.” His name has been registered in the ‘Limca Book of Records’ for staging almost all the plays of a single writer. However, this year as a result of the pandemic, he conducted a one day ‘Online Prem Utsav’ to maintain the legacy.

Mr Khan not only performs Munshi Ji’s plays but also of many other literati like Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore under the series “Namaskar Main Rabindranath Tagore Hoon” and Sadat Hasan Manto under the series “Manto Ka Deewanapan”, Swami Vivekanand, Mahatma Gandhi, Maulana Azad, Mirza Ghalib, Harivanshrai Bachchan, Bhagat Singh and many more. He also stages a play known as ‘Rashmirathi’ written by Ramdhari Singh Dinkar which is based on Mahabharata.

Mr Mujeeb Khan actively supports “Journalistic Theatre” and dutifully as a service to mankind performs street plays based on various ongoing social issues like Corruption, HIV Aids, Malnutrition (Kuposhan), Importance of School, Education for all, Women Empowerment, Save Water, Ragging in Colleges, Drugs etc. at various locations ranging from the schools and colleges of Mumbai to the slums of Dharavi, to the suburban railway stations like CST, Wadala, Andheri etc. to the streets of remote locations like Bhiwandi and Kalyan on the outskirts of Mumbai City and this is not limited to the city of Mumbai but they have performed these plays at various venues, numerous times across the country. He has done street plays for the Mumbai & Pune Traffic Police, the Municipal Co-operation, ONGC, the Anti Corruption Bureau, FedX and Various other NGOs.

To encourage and promote Hindustani literature in the young minds, he has been organizing Interschool Drama Competition, “The Aaliyah Jabeen Khan Trophy” since 25 years and Inter-collegiate Drama a Competition, “The P. L. Deshpande Trophy” since 14 years.

Mr Mujeeb Khan said that once he had gone to a school to perform the plays of Munshi Premchand and one of the students saw a picture of Munshiji and asked him, “Sir, who is this uncle?” to which Mr Khan replied that we call someone an uncle if we don’t know them and it’s a shame to know that our future generation knows who Shakespear is but is unaware of Munshi Premchand. We need to teach our children about these Indian gurus to keep our literature alive.

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